Monday, September 14, 2009

New software wave

This post is basically a collection of reviews of different programs (not related to math) and my opinion about their uses. It also includes my opinion (and hopes) for some upcoming products.

Windows 7
Yesterday I finally got my hands on Windows 7. Since I am using Linux I obviously tend to think that Windows is inferior to Linux, but I believe that it is important to at least keep an eye on other operating systems. Also, from what I found about it on the net this particular release of Windows is worth looking into. In this short review I am going to only talk about installation and the overall feel of the system. The rest I'd rather leave to more competent people.
I used qemu to install it on a virtual machine, so I didn't test all the features (especially not all the graphic features) but I did get a general feel of the system. Somewhat surprisingly I will that I neither like nor dislike it - in another words it failed to make any impression. The install process went without any trouble and I think that it was faster than that of Win Xp (it is hard to tell when using qemu). It also looked much better in terms of graphic (although compared to linux it is ages behind, live CD is much better for installing an OS).
The desktop itself looks rather impressive. It is also good that you have a sticky note program as part of the OS already installed. I personally prefer to use a Google to-do list gadget, but for others notes might work better. The start menu is also rather nice, although I think I would like it to consist only of its left side - there is no need for the right side of the start menu to appear all the time, most users don't even use the options you have there (except for the shut down button). I also think that the way it slides instead of opening new menus is definitely an improvement. A similar menu is available for Ubuntu, you can get the deb file here.
Virtual folders are another wonderful idea. I would really like to test them using a few thousands photos. Hope they will appear in linux soon enough.
If you want a more in-depth review of Windows 7, I suggest these two posts: Windows 7 End user experience and Windows 7 Performance.

However, despite all those improvements Windows 7 is still well behind Linux. It requires a lot of space to install, it is less safe and it is still behind in usability. The graphics is clearly improving but there are less useful effects than I have in Linux (frankly there is no way that I will use an OS that doesn't support multiply desktops). I hope that in the future Microsoft will adapt more fearutres from linux, especially the desktop cube. There are other areas in which it is lacking but they didn't changed from XP so I m not going to repeat them here.

Overall, this is a very nice version of Windows. I am definitely going to recommend it to those who still insist on using Windows. The only thing to be careful about is RAM. You need at least 2GB of it so if you are upgrading from XP you must make sure that you have enough RAM. In my simulation I was running it on a 3GH single core virtual processor, so you don't need to think much about processors. Any computer bought in the last 3-4 years should be capable to run it just fine.

Google Chrome
Since I don't like downloading software that is not available for Ubuntu from a repository, I installed Chrome only recently. I was quite impressed with it. It is a very well build browser. It is fast and has a nice collection of features. Its main shortcoming is the lack of extensions. While some extensions are available, they are just too few. Actually I considered switching to it from Firefox, but decided not to. If there were more extensions I would switch in a second.
Since it is going to be an important part of the future Google OS it is quite encouraging to see it doing so well even now. It is also interesting to note that it looks like a frame. The developers clearly put a lot of effort in thinking ways to maximize the part of the browser that actually displays the web page. Frankly it looks like they are already thinking about how Chrome will be part of their OS.

Google Wave
I obviously didn't try this one myself - it will be available to the public only at the end of the month. But there is already enough information about it to make an opinion. Overall it looks like a very nice example of software evolution. It is definitely a great concept, especially for those who communicate with lots of friends using the Internet. Since I don't communicate with many people, I don't know how much I will be effected by this product but some of the ways it can be used are clearly interesting to me as well. For example there is an idea to use it for managing comments on blogs. In this way commenting will be done in real time. Also, it will probably be possible to comment on a blog post "inline". Such an option would allow one to talk with the author about the post in a wave. A typical case can be asking for futher information or explanation from the author or other readers (a bit like Wikipedia edit page) and then the author will be able to automatically update the actual post with the explanation. Obviously a feature like this is rather interesting for those who have blogs.
The only thing that seems to be missing (for now) is the ability to make a video call from inside a wave. However, this is a simple enough matter of integrating Google talk into it, so it will be probably done soon enough (if not by Google than by someone else). Despite the fact that all the information I have about it comes from a few videos, it appears that Google wave is a perfect candidate for a communication center of the upcoming Google OS.

In the next post I plan to write a bit about Google Chrome OS and what is an online OS.

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